Jacob Angeli Chansley, also known as the "QAnon Shaman" wears a feather headdress and face paint at Wesley Bolin Plaza in Phoenix on June 1. Photo by Caitlin Sievers | Arizona Mirror
Jacob Angeli Chansley, better known as the “QAnon Shaman” will not see his guilty plea or his sentence vacated for his part in the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection, a federal judge decided Thursday.
Chansley, who grew up in the Valley and now lives in North Phoenix, was sentenced in November 2021 to 41 months of incarceration, followed by 3 years of probation. He pleaded guilty to a felony charge of obstructing an official proceeding as part of a plea deal.
At his sentencing hearing, Chansley seemingly took accountability for his actions on Jan. 6 and expressed remorse, but after his release from prison in March, he changed his tune.
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“The Court is disappointed to learn that, through his filings and public statements, Mr. Chansley has recanted the contrition displayed at his sentencing nearly two years ago,” Judge Royce Lamberth wrote in his July 20 ruling.
Lamberth, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, said he handed Chansley a sentence on the lower end of the range for his crime at least in part because of his remorse and acceptance of responsibility.
In the ruling, Lamberth pointed to a June 22 Arizona Mirror story in which Chansley said that, contrary to his former lawyer Al Watkins’ statements, he never renounced QAnon or felt betrayed by former President Donald Trump.
In April, Chansley’s lawyer petitioned the court to vacate his guilty plea and sentence, saying prosecutors didn’t disclose to his lawyers video evidence that exonerated him. He also claimed that Watkins was ineffective.
The video evidence that Chansley and his current attorney, William Shipley, claimed was exculpatory aired on a March 6 episode of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on the Fox News channel.
Carlson claimed that the footage, which prominently featured Chansley, showed that police officers allowed him inside the Capitol and that many of the rioters were merely sightseers.
“These videos are decidedly not exculpatory, especially when viewed in context,” Lamberth wrote.
While Shipley said he’d never seen the footage, prosecutors claimed that all of the video played on the show, except for one 10-second clip, had been made available to Watkins prior to Chansley’s sentencing.
The 10-second clip that was disclosed to his defense after Chansley’s sentencing, shows him outside of the Senate chamber, accompanied by two police officers who were leading him away from the chamber.
The video aired on the Carlson show was edited and cherry-picked to exclude hours of additional footage that showed Chansley entering the Capitol through a broken door, carrying a six-foot-long pole with a spearhead at the end, disobeying multiple orders from police to leave, yelling obscenities, climbing onto the Senate dais and leaving a threatening note for then-Vice President Mike Pence.
Therefore, the judge denied Chansley’s motion to vacate, based on the video footage.
Chansley argued that his lawyer was ineffective because Watkins encouraged him to accept a plea deal and failed to demand the video footage aired during the Carlson show so it could be presented during Chansely’s sentencing.
“His argument is wildly speculative, contrary to established caselaw and practice, and devoid of common sense,” Lamberth wrote.
Chansley said that if his lawyer hadn’t persuaded him to accept the plea deal, he might have negotiated for a better one, without an enhanced sentence and without agreeing to waive his right to appeal.
“The Court agrees with the government that plea counsel’s strategic choice to use his presentation to focus on Mr. Chansley’s remorse and acceptance of responsibility, rather than present additional video evidence in a futile attempt to contradict the obvious facts of the case, was objectively reasonable,” Lamberth wrote.
In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped several additional charges against Chansley and did not pursue a more lengthy sentence.
“In fact, without Mr. Chansley’s apparently unequivocal acceptance of responsibility, the Court is confident that he would have received a higher sentence,” Lamberth wrote.
In his decision, the judge also took aim specifically at the episode of Carlson’s show that focused on the Jan. 6 footage.
“Not only was the broadcast replete with misstatements and misrepresentations regarding the events of January 6, 2021 too numerous to count, the host explicitly questioned the integrity of this Court-not to mention the legitimacy of the entire U.S. criminal justice system- with inflammatory characterizations of cherry-picked videos stripped of their proper context,” Lamberth wrote.
“Those of us who have presided over dozens of cases arising from, listened to hundreds of hours of testimony describing, and reviewed thousands of pages of briefing about the attack on our democracy of January 6 know all too well that neither the events of that day nor any particular defendant’s involvement can be fully captured in a seconds-long video carelessly, or perhaps even cynically, aired in a television segment or attached to a tweet.”
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